I was poking around on Orson Scott Card's website recently and came across an archive of essays on writing called "Uncle Orson's Writing Class."
A Not Unactive Post About George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”
Orwell's essay on "Politics and the English Language" is among my most oft-cited pieces on language and writing, and its lessons and criticisms are as valid today as they were in 1946.
Today’s post is not so much about the details of the technology, or pondering whether we will one day live in some kind of post-scarcity utopia in which our machine-slaves can solve all of our problems, generate optimal art, and fulfill our every whim in addition to freeing us from manual labor and rote tasks, as it is about reflecting on the nature of creativity and the process that we are really going through when we attempt to ‘create.’
Reflections on the Performative Nature of Language
When we consider the organic and evolving nature of language, it becomes clear that the medium in which we as writers work is at once both a static means of information storage, and a dynamic, independent artform allowing the author to engage in a unique interaction with each reader.
Words We Don’t Have
The possibilities of leveraging this idea to render fictional characters and cultures more unique, more interesting, more textured, more genuine, more true, more alive, are veritably endless.
Dialogue tags receive a lot of approbation, almost as much as adverbs, and for similar reasons. Employed with skill and discretion, however, I assert that dialogue tags are a powerful and under-utilized tool for characterization, narration, and storytelling.
You Wear What You Read
Like changing from running clothes to dress clothes, or from casual clothes to hiking clothes, you can use what you’re reading to manipulate your subconscious mindset.
Keeping Track of Terms
Every now and then, I come across something that already seems so effective that I have no need to alter it to fit my own way of doing things. The most recent example of this is a post from Marie Brennan (author of The Memoirs of Lady Trent, among others) discussing, of all things, ways to prepare your manuscript for the copyeditor.
Compare these two sentences: 1) LyttIeton hypothesized long ago that Triton and Pluto originated as adjacent prograde satellites of Neptune, and 2) A physical unclonable function (PUF) is a hardware security primitive that exploits the inherent randomness of its manufacturing process to enable attestation of the entity wherein it is embodied.
Magic is Science is Science is Magic
Long before Arthur C Clarke coined the phrase “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” before Howard Taylor riffed on that claim to assert that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun,” and probably even before Mark Twain wrote A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, people, and especially writers, have been fascinated by this idea of an equivalency between science and magic.